Unleashing the Potential of Big Data in Agriculture: Water Use

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research recognizes the critical need to more sustainably manage agricultural water use. I am blogging today, on World Water Day,  to help raise awareness about this important issue, share the ways in which we at FFAR plan to help tackle this challenge, and to invite you to join us.

The Challenge
Agriculture accounts for approximately 70 percent of global freshwater use, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The volume of water we need to feed the world will only increase as the population grows—and we must ignite innovation in agriculture technology and practices to continue to meet the demand.

What can we do?
As Charles Fishman wrote in the New York Times last week, good open data drives innovation.  The agricultural system generates a multitude of data from sources as diverse as on-farm equipment, satellite sensors, production facilities, surveillance systems, and scientific research. Couple that with the wealth of data housed at federal agencies, and you have incredible potential to improve agriculture on a scale unimaginable even a decade ago.

FFAR is a new Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition partner, and we are proud to join the many groups working to seize opportunities to advance research through better, more cohesive open data. For our first dive into this space, FFAR will work to unlock the potential of existing agricultural data as it relates to agricultural water use.

Where to start?
Unifying, collecting, and layering on end-user analysis capabilities will be a monumental task for an organization larger than FFAR. The first step in unleashing the power of the enormous volume of agricultural water data is to identify what is out there. That is where FFAR will focus first.

In April, FFAR, the USDA, the U.S. Water Partnership, and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska will convene a panel discussion as part of the Water for Food Global Conference in Nebraska. The panel, “Big Data: Partnerships to Leverage Data for Water and Food Security,” will explore the future of Big Data as it relates to water use and food security. Join me at the Water for Food Global Conference by registering here.

We’ll follow the conference with an invite-only discussion with agriculture, cloud computing and information technology industry representatives to synthesize ideas from the panel and discuss a path forward for a Big Data discovery initiative led by FFAR. We look forward to letting you know how you can get involved!

Thank you for stopping by Rock Talk to join me in promoting the protection of a precious agricultural resource. How is your organization recognizing World Water Day? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Sally Rockey, Executive Director

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

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Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

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About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

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Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

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The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.